Roundworms in Dogs: A Common Cause of Diarrhea and How to Prevent It

Roundworms in Dogs: A Common Cause of Diarrhea and How to Prevent It

an image of roundworms

Dogs often get diarrhea from various causes, but one common culprit is roundworms. These parasites live in the intestines and feed off the nutrients your dog needs. Roundworms in dogs can cause serious digestive issues, including diarrhea, which is often among the first signs that your pet might be dealing with an infection.


Besides diarrhea, roundworms can cause vomiting, weight loss, and a pot-bellied appearance, especially in puppies. Identifying these symptoms early is crucial because untreated roundworm infections can lead to more severe health problems.

Recognizing the signs and getting timely treatment will help keep your dog healthy.

Key Takeaways

  • Roundworms in dogs commonly cause diarrhea.
  • Look out for symptoms like vomiting, weight loss, and a pot-bellied appearance.
  • Treatment and prevention include medication and maintaining a clean environment.

Understanding Roundworms in Dogs

Roundworms are common parasites in dogs that can cause various symptoms, including diarrhea. Infections can occur at different life stages of the worm and can also be transmitted to people, especially children. Understanding their life cycle, transmission, and symptoms will help in managing and preventing these infections.

Life Cycle of Roundworms

The life cycle of roundworms begins when a dog ingests roundworm eggs from contaminated environments. These eggs hatch into larvae in the dog’s intestine.

The larvae can then migrate through different tissues, reaching the lungs. From the lungs, they are coughed up and swallowed, returning to the intestines where they grow into adult worms.

Adult roundworms lay eggs, which are passed out in the dog’s feces, continuing the cycle.

Puppies can become infected while still in the mother’s womb or through the mother’s milk, starting the cycle at a very young age. Infected dogs can excrete thousands of eggs daily, contaminating the soil and environment around them.

Transmission to Dogs and Humans

Dogs primarily get roundworm infections by ingesting eggs from the soil or other contaminated surfaces. Puppies are especially vulnerable as they can acquire roundworms even before birth or through nursing.

People, especially children, can also be infected by accidentally ingesting eggs from contaminated hands or objects. Children playing in contaminated soil are at higher risk.

When humans ingest eggs, the larvae can cause a condition known as “larva migrans,” which can lead to serious health issues as the larvae migrate through different tissues.

Pregnant dogs must be managed carefully to avoid transmitting the worms to their puppies. It is essential to practice good hygiene, regular deworming, and proper disposal of feces to control the spread of roundworms.

Symptoms of Roundworm Infestation

Roundworms can cause a range of symptoms in dogs. Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and a pot-bellied appearance, especially in puppies. In more severe cases, roundworms can cause intestinal blockages or malnutrition.

Adult dogs might show signs of malnourishment, such as a dull coat and weight loss. You might notice worms or worm segments in your dog’s vomit or feces. Coughing can occur if larvae migrate to the lungs.

Identifying these symptoms early is crucial for effective treatment and preventing further spread.

Regular veterinary check-ups and timely treatment can prevent and manage roundworm infestations, ensuring your dog’s health and well-being.

Diagnosing and Treating Roundworms

Identifying an infection in dogs early ensures effective treatment. It’s essential to know the steps involved in both diagnosis and treatment for keeping your dog healthy.

Effective Deworming Treatments

Treating roundworms involves using specific medications to eliminate the parasites.

Common deworming medicines include milbemycin, pyrantel, and fenbendazole. These medications are proven to be effective and are often used in combination to target different stages of the worm’s life cycle.

Milbemycin is usually given monthly and helps in controlling roundworms along with other parasites. Pyrantel is another popular dewormer that paralyzes the worms, making them easier to pass.

Fenbendazole works by disrupting the worm’s energy metabolism, effectively eliminating them.

Always follow your vet’s instructions when administering these medicines to ensure complete eradication.

Regular deworming is crucial, especially for puppies who are more susceptible to severe infestations. Keeping up with these treatments can prevent long-term health issues for your dog.

Veterinarian Diagnosis Procedures

Diagnosing roundworms usually starts with a visit to the veterinarian. The vet will conduct a thorough examination and might ask for a stool sample.

A fecal sample is crucial as it allows the vet to look for roundworm eggs under a microscope.

The vet may also consider the dog’s history, symptoms, and possibly blood tests to check for any secondary infections caused by the worms.

Visible signs like vomiting, diarrhea, and a pot-bellied appearance can often point to a roundworm infection.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is vital for choosing the right treatment plan. If roundworms are confirmed, deworming treatments are then prescribed as part of the recovery process.

Regular check-ups and stool tests help ensure that the infection has been fully cleared.

Prevention and Environmental Control

Implementing preventive measures for dogs and controlling environmental factors are crucial to manage the risk of roundworm infections.

Preventive Measures for Dogs

Regular deworming is key in preventing roundworm infections.

Puppies should be dewormed every two weeks starting at two weeks of age until they are 12 weeks old. Adult dogs should be dewormed every three months.

You should also use heartworm preventatives, as they often cover other parasites like roundworms.

It’s also important to maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands after handling your dog, especially after picking up their poop.

Make sure that your dog’s living area remains clean. Disinfect feeding bowls and bedding regularly.

Limiting your dog’s contact with unknown animals and their waste can minimize the risk of infection. Avoid letting your dog roam unsupervised, especially in parks or areas where other dogs frequent.

Reducing Environmental Risks

Proper disposal of feces is essential to preventing roundworm eggs from contaminating the environment.

Always pick up your dog’s poop immediately and dispose of it in a sealed bag.

Cleaning the yard regularly is another step to lower contamination. Rake up dog feces and dispose of it properly.

Consider treating the soil with safe disinfectants that can reduce the risk of eggs remaining viable.

For parks and public spaces, support initiatives that encourage responsible pet ownership.

Campaigns that focus on keeping these areas clean can help in reducing the health risks associated with roundworm eggs. Ensuring that playgrounds and common areas are sanitized frequently can significantly reduce environmental contamination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Roundworms in dogs can cause a range of symptoms. Here are some common questions about roundworms and how they affect dogs and humans.

Can infection with roundworms be fatal to puppies?

Yes, roundworm infection can be fatal to puppies if not treated. These worms can cause severe malnutrition and hinder growth.

Roundworms can lead to serious health issues such as respiratory problems and intestinal blockage.

What is the recommended home treatment for dogs with roundworms?

Home treatment typically includes giving your dog a dewormer prescribed by your vet.

Maintaining good hygiene and cleaning up after your dog promptly can help prevent reinfection. Regular vet check-ups are also important to monitor progress.

How can roundworms be identified in a dog’s vomit?

Roundworms can often be seen in a dog’s vomit. They look like spaghetti and are usually several inches long.

If you notice these in your dog’s vomit, you should contact your vet immediately for advice and treatment.

What are the primary causes of roundworm infestation in dogs?

Dogs usually get roundworms by ingesting eggs from contaminated soil, feces, or infected animals.

Puppies can also be infected through their mother’s milk or while still in the womb.

Understanding these causes helps in prevention.

What are the signs that a human has contracted roundworms?

In humans, roundworm symptoms include fever, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness, and respiratory issues.

In severe cases, roundworms can cause malnutrition and growth delays. If you suspect you have contracted roundworms, seek medical attention promptly.

After treatment, how long does recovery from roundworms typically take in dogs?

Recovery time varies. Most dogs start to feel better within a few days of treatment.

You need to follow up with your vet to ensure the infection is fully cleared. Regular deworming and good hygiene can help prevent future infections.

Dr. Jeff Kordell, DVM is a practicing veterinarian in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois Veterinary School. Dr. Kordell owns Animal Medical Center at Fort Sheridan and has had his own private practice for over 30 years. He is the co-founder of K&S Veterinary Labs LLC the maker of DiarRice.